Review: ‘Where’d You Go, Bernadette’ by Maria Semple

I’ve been meaning to read Where’d You Go, Bernadette for ages, but it’s the type of book that I had to be in the mood to read and never was. I started listening to a bit of the audiobook last weekend and fell in love with the humour, so I knew it was finally the right time.

Synopsis: Bernadette has gone missing. Using a stream of letters, emails, phone conversations, receipts and other collected bits of evidence, her daughter, Bee, tries to piece together the mystery of what happened.

I had completely forgotten how much I love epistolary novels. It feels a bit like detective work as pieces of the story are revealed in each email or letter. With each instance, you get this “aha” moment as another bit of evidence is put into place. In this book, there are so many different people adding to the story, which makes the unreliability of each piece of evidence that much more possible. You have to figure out who to believe and who to trust, adding to the fun of this novel.

“Maybe that’s what religion is, hurling yourself off a cliff and trusting that something bigger will take care of you and carry you to the right place.”

Thoughts while reading this book:

  • Chapter 8: listening to the audiobook and suddenly the reader is literally singing and all I can think is “I am so glad I didn’t just read this book in print” because DAMN, this girl has pipes!
  • Eww… Bee just literally scooped up rotting wood from her floor using a spoon… gross!
  • I’m probably going to be on an epistolary novel genre binge next. I love books full of emails and letters and other random things being read to me. I don’t know why.

I have to applaud the reader of this audiobook because she managed the difficulty of multiple narrators really well. Her voice was slightly different for each character, and when she started singing I was totally blown away. I never felt lost even with so many characters to keep track of. I probably would have found it really difficult if I was reading the text on my own, which is probably why I didn’t get into it the first few times I tried to read the book. So hurray for audiobooks!

I definitely wouldn’t have guessed a number of the twists in this book. Bernadette is a complicated character, with some obvious mental health issues. Her history was as much of a surprise to me as a reader as it was to her daughter. I can totally see Bernadette becoming a regular star in a series of comical books akin to The Rosie Project. I know that the author has written another book with a similar character, but I’d love to read more about Bernadette some day.

LC rating: 5-stars (such a fun book, wish it were a series)


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